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One year in: an honest assessment on our first anniversary

National Advisory Forum member Francesca reflects on our first year as the specialist social work regulator.

One year in: an honest assessment on our first anniversary

12/2/2020 10:23:23 AM

Social Work England became the new, specialist regulator for social workers on 2 December 2019. In our first year we reached out to thousands of people to find out what the sector needed, embedded new rules and standards, and published our first research reports.

Over 100,000 social workers, along with people with lived experience, course providers and many organisations, have been with us on our journey to kick start radically different regulation. All alongside the challenges of a global pandemic. We asked one social worker, who has been a critical friend on our National Advisory Forum, to give us some feedback on how our first year has gone.

“I wouldn’t want to speak for the whole sector, but I feel a stronger sense of professional identity and commitment to the profession with Social Work England.

My experience of working with the National Advisory Forum has been positive and valuable. I have felt welcomed into the organisation and met some great people with different experiences of social work.

I had worries when joining the National Advisory Forum that it may be a tokenistic gesture, but it doesn’t feel that way. Social Work England talks openly about its ongoing development. There is a culture of learning, and feedback from the forum has felt valued and well received by different project leads. I have experienced a consistently passionate and hopeful energy from staff and the organisation feels committed to enhancing the experience of social work, which feels exciting to be connected to.

Valuable insight

Co-production with social workers, and people who have had social workers in their lives, provides the organisation with valuable insight and connection to the field. The requests for input from the forum come from right across the organisation, such as feeding into the development of Social Work Week 2021, reports and website content, which shows that co-production is being considered more widely.

I think it is important for Social Work England to continue to reflect and be critical of what co-production means and the processes for this. This will help to ensure its efforts remain authentic and most effective.

The future

Over the next year, Social Work England should focus on getting to know and understand social work further. It is such a diverse profession, yet it’s often thought of as only child protection or generic work with adults. Within the fields of adults and children services, there are many different groups of people who have social work involvement in their lives. The services are much more varied; each area brings professionals with very specialist skill sets that should be celebrated.

I think Social Work England is also in a good position to help widen the public understanding or perception of social work. It’s a shame that press coverage about the profession is sometimes bad, when the reality is that wonderful things happen across social work every day. Sadly, I felt social workers were hugely under recognised during Covid-19.

Social Work England must also continue to hold the profession to high standards and where there are failings ensure learning and change happens. However, I would hope through developing a deep understanding of the profession and areas of concern that Social Work England can then play a vital role in working for change on wider levels. This would help set professionals and people up to achieve the outcomes they hope for.”

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